Monday, March 21, 2011

The Infamous Superfood Green Smoothie

Click here to watch me make this recipe:

So, you read it correctly.. it says green. But, let me first mention that the color green doesn't always have to be associated with "yuck"! My experience with green smoothies was what really set me off on my journey towards healthy eating and therapeutic nutrition. Many of you may be thinking that I'm crazy, but I have had so much success in making healthy and delicious green smoothies that even my roommates have started incorporating them into their diets each day! What's really great about smoothies, or protein shakes for that matter, is that you can make them as filling or not-filling as you want. By adding more substantial ingredients like nuts, seeds, grains and protein powder, it is easy to replace an entire meal with one quick and delicious drink. Also, as you can already guess from the title of this post, smoothies are the easiest way to get in some of your greens for the day since they turn out to be virtually tasteless when combined with all of the other ingredients! The loads of nutrients and phytochemicals found in greens are remarkable, and I guarantee you will feel the difference in your energy levels and mental performance after including as many greens in your smoothies as possible.

So before I get into the recipe, I want to preface by saying that there are multiple ways to recreate this smoothie depending on what kinds of ingredients you have on hand. The principle is to use as many fresh whole fruits and greens as possible and then any extra components would be a bonus. I included protein powder in this recipe so that it could be used as a post workout shake or simply a breakfast replacement in the morning. Many of the ingredients can be removed or substituted depending on what you're up for. (the world is your oyster)

Here's the recipe: (makes around 2 servings)

3/4 cup milk of choice- preferably almond or coconut (unsweetened)
1/2 cup filtered water
1 medium size banana
1/3 cup frozen blueberries
1/3 cup frozen spinach
2 tsp sunflower seeds
2 tsp ground flaxseeds
1 scoop protein powder of choice- I like soy or hemp protein
1 tsp Maca Powder
A pinch each of sea salt and cinnamon

*If taste is not sweet enough, I like to add 2-3 drops of liquid vanilla stevia. It's an all-natural herbal sweetener that doesn't cause an imbalance in insulin levels and has no known negative side effects, like artificial sweeteners. Also, this might be a little too thick depending on the consistency of your protein powder, so if you want it to be more drinkable just add a big more H2O!

Alright, so let's get down to business and talk about why I included these ingredients and how they will benefit your body and your brain.

  1. Almond Milk/Coconut Milk
I like to trade off between these two milk options because they each have different flavors and possess unique health properties that make them far superior to cow's milk. Almond milk contains a significant amount of protein, B vitamins, iron, potassium, vitamin E and plant-based essential fatty acids for proper cell structure and function in the body. Almonds contain a considerable amount of calcium (around 92mg per 1/4 cup) which is more readily absorbable compared to cow's milk, due to the inflammation and allergenicity related to cow's milk. Coconut milk is another great alternative to use, especially if you're looking for more long-lasting energy and satiety (feeling of fullness) in your smoothie, since coconut milk contains high levels of medium-chained saturated fatty acids (MCFA's). MCFA’s are unique in their ability to actually protect the heart from arteriosclerosis and heart disease due to their negative effect on blood cholesterol levels.They can also supply the body with remarkable long-lasting energy and boost the metabolism to improve human performance.

2. Banana

Bananas are a great addition to any smoothie due to their creamy consistency and super-sweet taste. Rich in potassium (300-400mg per banana!), vitamin C, vitamin B6 and fiber, bananas have been known to help reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.

3. Blueberries
Known as "brain berries" or "youth berries" to some, these superfoods possess enormous amounts of antioxidants (used to fight free-radicals and support proper cell growth) and other phytochemicals including phenolic acid, anthocyanins, and ellagic acid. These compounds have been known to reduce inflammation, improve brain function and development, and most notably, inhibit tumor growth. Blueberries are also a good source of a soluble fiber called pectin, which can support healthy digestion and decrease cholesterol levels, therefore decreasing the risk for cardiovascular disease. I try to buy organic frozen blueberries when possible, but if you're on a tight budget you can find conventional berries at any supermarket for a pretty reasonable price.

4. Spinach
Perhaps the most powerful, inexpensive green superfood ever, spinach contains high quantities of vitamin A, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, iron and the water-soluble B vitamin folate, which is important for proper cognitive function. Your parents weren't joking around when they told you as a kid to eat like Popeye! Spinach also possesses many carotenoids, the highest of which is lutein, a compound that has been scientifically tested to improve vision and protect the body from eye-related diseases. Finally, the high levels of antioxidants in spinach, including glutathione, alpha lipoic acid, and vitamins C and E, make spinach an excellent food to support the body's defense mechanisms and help fight off free radicals.

5. Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds have been used for centuries in traditional medicine to help promote hormone regularity and relieve menstrual cramps in women. Don't worry guys, they are also healthy for you too and won't make you develop "woman" hormones (I promise). Sunflower seeds contain the highest amount of omega-6 essential fatty acids, which, along with their omega-3 sidekicks, makes sunflower seeds important in regulating blood cholesterol and preventing cardiovascular disease. These super-seeds are also rich in vitamin E (helps your skin glow!), vitamin B1 or thiamine, magnesium, selenium and folate. Plus they taste yummy, so why not give your smoothie a nutty flava? Oh, and if you plan to use a not-so-great blender, it would be helpful to soak these seeds in some filtered water for a few hours before hand to make them blend better and absorb quicker in the body.

6. Flaxseeds
Ground flaxseeds are a great addition to any smoothie, cereal, salad, and they can even be used as an egg substitute (when soaked in some water) for vegan baking! I'm sure you are all as excited as I am to hear that:) Anyway, as most of you have probably heard somewhere or another, flaxseeds are a rich source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which can help balance the high levels of omega-6 fatty acids found in the typical American diet (meat and dairy related). Omega-3 fatty acids help promote immune function and reduce inflammation in the body by decreasing platelet aggregation ("stickiness" in the blood vessel walls). In addition to sunflower seeds, flaxseeds are an essential superfood to include in your diet so that proper fatty acid ratios are maintained in the body.

7. Maca Root Powder
So this is my secret ingredient that I use in a lot of recipes due to its miraculous health promoting qualities and nutrition components. Maca root is native to Peru and actually grows in the highest altitude compared to any other plant. Maca is most known for its ability to improve fertility in humans and other animals, as well as improve mental acuity, physical endurance and stamina. The nutritional properties alone would make maca a remarkable superfood, including its high levels of calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, iron and a wide range of vitamins such as B1, B2, B12, C, and E. Maca is unique in its known enhancement to the endocrine system in the body, which can play a role in energy levels, muscle hypertrophy, sexual performance, fertility, and brain physiology. You can buy powdered maca root at your local health foods store and its a great addition to almost any superfood recipe with its mildly sweet, nutty flavor. I also like using it in hot chocolate because it's a great sidekick to raw cacao (which we will discuss later, with its enormous health benefits!)

8. Cinnamon
Cinnamon has got to be my favorite, most commonly used spice in my superfood cooking. Its wonderful flavor adds the perfect balance to sweet creations, especially in smoothies and breakfast cereals. Cinnamon contains unique antioxidants such as cinnamyl acetate and cinnemaldehyde, which have been shown to reduce platelet aggregation and the risk for heart disease. Feel free to use as much or as little as you want, as I tend to go a bit crazy when I want that "cinnabon-esque" flavor first thing in the morning.

As far as the protein powder goes, there are many options available on the market and my only advice would be to research the best source for you and make sure you invest in quality over quantity. I would prefer to use plant-based proteins such as soy (as long as it's NON-GMO and organic..seriously, since 90% in commercial farms is genetically modified and potentially harmful) and also hemp protien, which possesses a high level of bioavailable protein (with all essential amino acids) and a significant amount of insoluble fiber.

Again, it is more important to start small and work your way up to some of these ingredients, rather than avoid this concept all together. Maca root and protein powders can be quite costly (up to $20 each) depending on where you purchase them, so prioritize your spending and shop wisely at the grocery stores. I encourage you to get creative with your smoothies, as my three roommates Lindsay, Clare and Stef all have. We all share the "Magic Bullet" each morning to make our smoothies, and this magic machine has yet to fail us throughout our busy hectic schedules. I know that Stef prefers to use a mixture of milk and OJ (orange juice) in her smoothies as a base, and then adds peanut butter to make it extra filling and delish. The possibilities are endless!! Go explore and do your body some good, because frankly it's the only one you got and I know mine thanks me each morning when I sip down my green delicious glory throughout my biochemistry lecture. (it may even be the only thing that gets me through that class!)

So, just to wrap it all up, for those of you who frown upon the color green, and think that this concept is a ridiculous idea only discovered and used by hippies, I hope you have now decided to give it a try and experience what it's really like to "go green". I don't remember what my life was life without green smoothies, and I have no doubt you will feel the same.



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Smith, Ed. (2004) Maca Root; Modern Rediscovery of an Ancient Andean Fertility Food.The Journal of the American Herbalist Guide 2004. Retrieved from